UM reports series of drug addictions and changes its policy for sending emergency alerts | Local News
The University of Montana saw a spike in reports of students drugged at Missoula bars last month, prompting the university to issue a campus-wide safety email.
Between Jan. 18 and Feb. 21, five students said they were drugged on different occasions, said Student Advocacy Resource Center director Jen Euell. These students also informed SARC that others may also have received slipped doses, totaling 10 people targeted in four weeks.
She added that although SARC regularly received reports of students on drugs from time to time, the numbers in January and February were at a much higher rate than previous months.
Drug addicts, reported for the first time by the Kaimin of Montana, performed off-campus in Missoula bars, UM spokesman Dave Kuntz said. So far, none of the incidents have resulted in criminal charges.
A public safety notice was emailed to the UM campus community on Feb. 9 after campus police learned of the high dose count. The email, which does not provide information on the specifics of the reports, states “We have heard increasing reports of drug-facilitated assaults in the Missoula community.”
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The UMPD received the drug reports in February from SARC, Kuntz said. The decision to issue a UM alert in non-emergency situations is assessed based on the circumstances which include the crime scene.
“In this particular case, because the number of reports was so much higher than in the past and there is an ongoing risk, we felt it was important for the UMPD to know about it,” Euell said.
If UM students or employees frequent places flagged as safety concerns, Kuntz said the university wants them to be aware so they can take precautions. The federal Clery Act requires universities to report crimes on campus and send “timely warnings” if there is an ongoing threat to public safety. Kuntz explained that campus officials ultimately decided that the drug spike was Clery’s responsibility to send out notification about the drug spike.
“The town center is not in our jurisdiction of Clery,” he said. “However, our students go there regularly, so it was essential to make this trend known to our students. This action was done with one ultimate factor above all, to do what is best to keep our students safe. ”
SARC is a confidential service on campus – no identifying information or names have been released by the center, but it does report data to law enforcement from time to time.
“If there are disturbing trends in this information that SARC believes indicates danger to the public and our academic community, it is disclosed to UMPD for review for a public safety or Clery warning,” said Kuntz.
The security email regarding drug overlay updates on the college security alert system.
Last semester, the university sent out four alerts notifying its campus community of sexual assault cases. The alerts were labeled “Timely Warnings/Sexual Assaults” and provided a few sentences of information about attacks that had happened before, but had only just been reported. The alerts did not specify whether the suspects were allowed on campus or whether disciplinary action had been taken against them.
Students expressed concern over the alerts, saying their ambiguous language and lack of information were alarming.
Now, text alerts will only be deployed to students when immediate action is required, such as a lockdown or natural disaster.
This change is to maintain the integrity of the alert text. If there is no imminent threat to public safety, UM will email students notifying them of assaults, burglaries and other crime reports, Kuntz said. Unless there is an immediate threat related to a sexual assault report, text alerts will no longer be sent about them.
Kuntz also gave the example of black bears on campus — these notifications used to be sent by text message, but are now likely to be sent by email.
If you need support as a survivor or secondary survivor of violence, harassment, or discrimination, the UM Student Advocacy Resource Center (SARC) offers free, confidential counseling, advocacy, and a helpline. 24-hour support at 406-243-6559. Contacting SARC does not mean you are reporting the crime to Title IX or any other reporting agency.